Humility & Honour / Day 4

BIBLE READING

Ephesians 4: 1-2

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Matthew 11: 29

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Philippians 4: 5

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Titus 3: 1-2

Remind the people to...always to be gentle towards everyone.

REFLECTION

If you were to look through the 'leadership' section of any bookshop you would find titles such as: 'The 48 Laws of Power', 'Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results', 'Winning Through Intimidation', and 'Charisma on Command: Inspire, Impress, and Energize Everyone You Meet'. You are unlikely to find many books with the word 'gentleness' in the title.   

In today's business world, we promote the forceful, persuasive and charismatic.  Gentleness is not regarded as a positive quality, meekness is seen as weakness.  'Gentle' is a word which is used to describe soap for babies and women’s deodorant.

However, notice Jesus' self-description: "...I am gentle and humble in heart..." (Matt 11:29) Jesus is undoubtedly the greatest leader who has ever lived.  No other leader has left a mark on human history like he did.  Even though he had power beyond measure, He didn't rule by force or coercion.  He led with gentleness and humility.  People who were worn out on legalistic religion and the oppressive abuse of religious power were drawn to Jesus for many reasons, not the least of which was how he treated them with such gentleness.  He spoke with tender compassion, he welcomed the outsider and embraced the unlovable. 

Many of us are afraid that if we display true gentleness and meekness, people might see it as an opportunity to take advantage of us and treat us like a doormat.  This should not be the case.

First of all, Jesus was gentle, but he wasn't weak.  He boldly confronted the powerful religious establishment and was unflinching in his mission to save humanity through his torturous death.

Secondly, the biblical idea of gentleness is 'power under control'.  The word Paul uses in Ephesians 4 is 'praotēs'.  It has nothing to do with weakness, timidity, indifference, or cowardice. It was used of wild animals that were tamed, especially of horses that were broken and trained. Such an animal still has his strength and spirit, but its will is under the control of its master. Biblical gentleness is power under the control of God. It is never avenging, self-assertive or vindictive.  As Saint Francis de Sales put it: "Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength."

Thirdly, like humility, gentleness is a vital step towards real unity because it softens our sharp edges and prevents us from hurting those who get close to us. If we were to balance our strength with humility and gentleness, just as Jesus did, many of our conflicts would disappear.

Gary Thomas summarises this character quality well:

"Gentleness is a strong hand with a soft touch. It is a tender, compassionate approach toward others' weaknesses and limitations. A gentle person still speaks truth, sometimes even painful truth, but in doing so guards his tone so the truth can be well received."

Finally, note that gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit. (Gal 5: 23)  It is the natural overflow of a life deeply connected to the vine, Jesus.  Gentle people have been transformed by the incredible message of God's grace, and they delight in showing that grace to others.